There has been widespread devastation caused by the current monsoon season this year in parts of India and the Middle East. In addition to causing mudslides and flooding entire communities, thunderstorms and lightning strikes have also been increasingly fatal.
In India, lightning this week claimed the lives of close to 70 individuals.
The Associated Press (AP) reported this week that 49 deaths in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh were attributed to lightning strikes.
Local authorities say that seven of these fatalities happened on Tuesday when a group of individuals, mostly farmers, sought cover behind trees during a thunderstorm. The thunderbolt struck them, instantly killing all of them.
According to the AP, from Tuesday to Wednesday, 20 more people perished as a result of lightning in the eastern state of Bihar. And that’s in addition to the central state of Madhya Pradesh, where 16 people were killed by lightning earlier this month.
Col. Sanjay Srivastava, whose organization Lightning India Resilient Campaign works with the Indian Meteorological Department to track extreme weather, said that lightning has killed almost 750 people throughout India since April.
However, according to National Geographic, only about 2,000 people are killed by lightning worldwide each year.
The summer monsoon season in India usually starts in June and lasts until September, but this year, the country has reportedly experienced more thunderstorms and lightning due to rising pollution levels.
“High ground temperature leads to evaporation from water bodies that add moisture to the atmosphere. The presence of aerosols due to air pollution creates favorable conditions for thunderclouds to trigger lightning activity,” J.P. Gupta, the director of the India Meteorological Department, told the AP.
“People are dying more from lightning than rain-related incidents, though this is the time when people (typically) die of floods or other rain-related incidents,” explained state government spokesperson Shishir Singh.
The shockingly high death toll has prompted the government to issue new guidelines for how people can protect themselves during a lightning storm, said Singh.
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